Fans in Georgia hope that Temuri Ketsbaia's dismissal by Olympiacos FC is just a blip for the 41-year-old former midfielder, who is still regarded as his nation's brightest coaching prospect.
Ketsbaia's tenure at the Piraeus club was to last just six games before the club issued a statement on 15 September announcing his departure in the wake of a 0-0 Greek Super League draw against FC Kavala which saw fans chanting the name of his predecessor Ernesto Valverde, who had returned to his native Spain after he could not agree terms for a new contract with the club.
Now coach at Villarreal CF, Valverde led Olympiacos to a domestic double in his only season in charge, and was well liked by supporters. Fans, and reputedly players too, did not warm to Ketsbaia, however, though his six-game reign kicked off with five straight wins. Božidar Bandović, who took caretkaer charge prior to Zico's appointment, said: "Our recent performances leave much to be desired, despite some good results."
"I hope that the decision to part company will bring benefits to both sides," said Ketsbaia after his departure in the lead up to his side's opening UEFA Champions League game against AZ Alkmaar. "With all my heart I wish the team all the best, and especially a win in the first group-stage match against AZ." His wish duly came true, with the Dutch champions being beaten 1-0.
AZ assistant coach Shota Arveladze, the only player to have scored more goals for Georgia (26) than his long-term international team-mate Ketsbaia (15), was a little mystified by the whole affair. "He was the first foreign coach to sign a three-year contract with Olympiacos so the club really wanted to work with him for a long period of time," said Arveladze. "I don't know what happened there."
Others were less surprised. Ketsbaia's past certainly did not endear him to fans in Piraeus. Having represented AEK Athens FC for three seasons, he scored the only goal against Olympiacos in one league game, and further galled the club's supporters by leading Cypriot side Anorthosis Famagusta FC to the UEFA Champions League group stage at Olympiacos's expense last season.
The hope in Georgia is that Ketsbaia will not be out of work for long. He remains a coach in demand, not least in his homeland. "Maybe Ketsbaia will turn to Georgian football and will take over the national team one day," said Arveladze. Former international Murtaz Shelia, now coach of FC Spartak Tskhinvali, added:"I know Ketsbaia is not averse to the idea of taking over the national team. The team needs him."
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